Palacino J, Swalley SE, Song C, Cheung AK, Shu L, Zhang X, Van Hoosear M, Shin Y, Chin DN, Keller CG, Beibel M, Renaud NA, Smith TM, Salcius M, Shi X, Hild M, Servais R, Jain M, Deng L, Bullock C, McLellan M, Schuierer S, Murphy L, Blommers MJ, Blaustein C, Berenshteyn F, Lacoste A, Thomas JR, Roma G, Michaud GA, Tseng BS, Porter JA, Myer VE, Tallarico JA, Hamann LG, Curtis D, Fishman MC, Dietrich WF, Dales NA, Sivasankaran R. 2015. SMN2 splice modulators enhance U1-pre-mRNA association and rescue SMA mice. Nature chemical biology. 11(7):511-7. Pubmed: 26030728 DOI:10.1038/nchembio.1837


Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), which results from the loss of expression of the survival of motor neuron-1 (SMN1) gene, represents the most common genetic cause of pediatric mortality. A duplicate copy (SMN2) is inefficiently spliced, producing a truncated and unstable protein. We describe herein a potent, orally active, small-molecule enhancer of SMN2 splicing that elevates full-length SMN protein and extends survival in a severe SMA mouse model. We demonstrate that the molecular mechanism of action is via stabilization of the transient double-strand RNA structure formed by the SMN2 pre-mRNA and U1 small nuclear ribonucleic protein (snRNP) complex. The binding affinity of U1 snRNP to the 5' splice site is increased in a sequence-selective manner, discrete from constitutive recognition. This new mechanism demonstrates the feasibility of small molecule-mediated, sequence-selective splice modulation and the potential for leveraging this strategy in other splicing diseases.

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Photo of Mark C. Fishman

Mark C. Fishman’s group studies the heart-brain connection. They employ a range of genetic, developmental, and neurobiological tools in zebrafish to understand what the heart tells the brain, and how critical internal sensory systems adjust homeostatic and somatic behaviors, including social interactions.

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